Tower of Time is a new RPG game developed by Event Horizon, a seemingly new developer on Steam. Combining Diablo movement, RTS combat and RPG mechanics, ToT is a blend of fun and engaging systems all in one package. Following a man who is able to see and control his soldiers as they travel to the depths of a buried tower, on a quest to help save their own world from starvation.
We begin the story as the narrator tells of the past, and the present, in the land of Artara. Once a beautiful and peaceful land, a mysterious event occurred which shook all of that. Passing by several years, we see a young boy who lives in poverty, hunting animals to survive. This young boy stumbles across a ruin in the ground, risen from a recent earthquake. Approaching and exploring the ruin, against the teachings of his village, he finds crystals, food and power within the temple itself.
Once the boy has finished exploring the ruin, he comes across a throne, where he is spoken to telepathically. The voice speaks of how the boy is strong and will be the one to take this throne, but the boy is too young and must run for now. Skipping forward some years, the boy has turned knight and advisor to a king in a local land. Asking for a detachment from his king, the boy, our protagonist, heads back to the ruins, older and stronger.
Returning to the tower, the protagonist and his men must explore every floor in hopes of finding home and food for the weakening men outside the ruins. However, the ruins are not safe, as the tower is full of undead, Orcs and spirits that stop their progress at every turn.
Your first run will last around 10 hours, depending on difficulty setting and familiarity with RTS games. There isn’t too much in the way of replayability, besides harder difficulties, and to my mind not many collectables besides all the quests and hidden areas in the levels themselves, which appear as a checklist in the level select.
ToT is hard to pin down in terms of genre, as traversing the map is done in a Diablo manner, clicking the left mouse button to move and interact. However, battles will occur when enemies approach you on the map, pushing you to an almost top-down perspective of a battle map that runs in real-time. Not quite action, not quite turn-based, the battle maps have your characters attacking automatically, but with abilities for you to activate and aim.
During combat, you will control 1-4 characters, whom you choose to take with you before setting off into the tower. Each character has their own class, hp and mp values. Every character comes with their own skill tree, points gained by levelling them back outside the tower in your village. You can improve their abilities, add secondary effects to them and increase the characters base stats.
Once you feel the need, you can leave the tower via teleportation at no cost. The village itself contains a Keep, where you can equip and spend ability points on your characters, the Library where you can look up past quests and the bestiary, the Blacksmith where you create new weapons or enchant them, and finally training facilities, like the Armory and Mage Tower that allow you to level your characters up. Levelling up is done within the Barracks, showing you a list of all characters, their level and the cost to level them up.
Crafting equipment takes crystals found in the tower, ranging from Magic, Ancient and Relic. You can craft all types of equipment for your characters, and each time you will be given a random effect on them, from increased speed, stats or damage. Enchanting takes Relic crystals and can only be done to weapons with an enchantment slot. You find enchantments in the tower itself and must bring them back to the base to learn and use.
Each floor of the tower has a checklist of things to do, opening every chest, completing all battles, collecting all blueprints and finding all secret rooms. It’s a neat way to lay out a collectable system, but feels a bit too straightforward at times, as most of them are found as you walk around with no real thinking required, besides the secret rooms.
There isn’t any experience in ToT, as your characters are as good as they’re going to get. However, you will be able to spend gold on them in the barracks to level them up. Which is a weird way to do it, as it does cap your character’s progression to both gold and time, as you also require tomes of knowledge and the appropriate training facility to be upgraded. Stopping you from over-grinding to make the game easier. The Tomes are found at specific points in the tower, setting a hard level cap in each level.
Overall thoughts and feelings
As it stands currently, the soundtrack in ToT feels uninspired and short. I rarely heard more than 3 tracks during the course of gameplay, with similar tracks playing between levels and even combat. Elite battles even played the same music as normal battles lessening the impact they should have on the player during a hard encounter. The music itself is rather lacklustre, feeling unenergetic against the chaos of battle or too quiet during exploration.
The difficulty of ToT has a weird curve to it, from easy battles turning out way harder than usual to Elite battles being easier. Your tactics and battlefield control change the difficulty drastically as well, either relying heavily on the fighters wall of stone ability to section off the battlefield, to being completely overwhelmed by ranged units. The developers have said they are working on gameplay balance through early access, with a few patches to represent that, but a lot needs to be done to smooth out the difficulty curve.
Combined with the unenthusiastic music, traversal and battle become rather dull and boring, leading to some quite lengthy play sessions where I was just moving forward without enjoyment. Some of the battles and their maps were interesting but plenty of them are just copy-pasted encounters to lengthen game time. There can be some fun combos of abilities, like cordoning off your party with the fighters wall ability and summoning a beast to fight for you on the other side, but these are too few and far between.
Overall, I cannot recommend Tower of Time just yet. It requires a lot of work in too many areas to warrant a price tag. The story is fine, though drops itself a bit too often in place of long levels and map traversal. Gameplay is fun and interactive but falls behind due to repetitive maps and fights. The soundtrack feels either too short or underutilised for a majority of the game, alongside a lack of voice acting outside of the narrator. If you’re a fan of RTS or free-movement RPGs you might find some enjoyment with this title, but I would suggest looking deeper into it before a purchase.